Bio Note: With stay at home orders and the holidays coinciding, our neighbors have been such a source of support and exchange this year. It’s become a tradition for me to write a seasonal poem and send it out in cards and emails at Christmastime although I don’t myself celebrate with a tree or many gifts. There will be dried persimmons this year, however, as there were pomegranates and oranges the years before.
As we wait for rains, I dry fruit. This year it’s the sunny persimmon sliced and placed in our dehydrator for transformation to longer-lived wedges of coral candy. Long live the many varietaled persimmon, some astringent, some eaten like apples. Hangs as ornaments on leafless branches. Korean legend considers this late fall fruit brave foe to a tawny tiger scared away from the town by one— globe that fends off the fearsome. We need these spheres of sweetness, omens of bravery and goodness, restoration and renewal. This year desiccates us with calamities— how we long for it to end! Tonight Rita brings forty hachiyas from Ann’s tree. Our neighborhood fruit-chain-exchange. Our kitchen awash with poppy colored rounds, stellar landscape like a sand dollar inside its flesh. I cut them, golden shards, newborns in gift baskets at the threshold of January’s front door.
Our tree, fertile with them, red-fruited-multi-faceted ornaments of pride. Start as lipstick red flowers that drop into faded garlands wreathing like a collar fallen to the floor. Red bulbs appear, harbingers for the fruit. Hard shelled, pregnant, crimson- seeded miracles. How did they get so large? And why are the seeds so hard to extract? It’s been a dry summer, a dryer fall, and yet here they are, so many we have to look for places to donate them. A homesick man named Igor, from Armenia, once climbed the tree for some, afterwards left a thank you note. and packages of crackers and cookies from Trader Joe’s. A neighbor comes this year with two kids, fascinated while cutting them off the tree, eager to begin the harvest of scarlet cells called arils. Friends graciously receive too many, send to the east coast in a box. Make jam, bread. Put on salads. Bring to other neighbors. Everyone set to whacking at them. Our kitchen a crime scene, splayed with the stains of ruby-juice. Persephone visits our dreams. She who sacrificed to give us winter, shadow days, blizzards of rain. A cleansing. The ways we try for redemption. The tree, a skeleton now, still a few offerings left on otherwise vacant branches. So many years, such faithful service. During the dark times, beacon of magenta, of vermillion.
Originally published in The Full Moon Herald, Grayson Press, 2020
©2021 Phyllis Klein
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